Kaepli settled with a sigh and sipped the wine, setting the cup down before beginning. “It’s confusion in the scrying bowl. I suspect Nethene or Iyuno or both, are interfering.” He sipped more wine, as he stroked his beard. “I did see some flashes of an army massing. It could have been Diamond Point valley but the reading was too muddled. There were other quick views, a forest, but I couldn’t tell where, and a lake.” He pulled at an earlobe. “The lake could have been anywhere, but there were several large boats, suitable to carry soldiers.” Kaepli shook his head and pulled a bit of bread off of Sisruo’s leftover loaf. He chewed slowly. “No. It just wasn’t clear enough to make heads or tails of it.” He stood up. “I must tell the king.”
“Shall I accompany you?” Delia slid from her stool. “I think I’ve done all I can here today.”
Master Kaepli nodded. “I’d be honored, Princess.”
Delia blushed. It was hard to accept the title still. She turned to Sisruo. “Thank you for your help today. May I return tomorrow to practice?”
He bowed. “I’d be honored.”
The mage clapped his hands. “Good. We’ll go to the king. Sisruo, make notes about what you’ve done today. We might as well keep a good record.”
“Yes, Master Kaepli. Immediately.”
Kaepli and Delia left. She glanced behind her as she followed the mage through the door. Sisuro was watching. He smiled. She gave him a tiny wave and closed the door. Her eyes were on the ground, a smile on her face when Kaepli broke into her thoughts.
“You and Sisruo worked well together today?”
She shook her thoughts clear. “Yes, Mage Kaepli. He had everything prepared for me and made sure I didn’t die of hunger or thirst while I worked. A very thoughtful elf. He told me he’s nearly ready for his last tests.”
The old elf nodded. “He’s been ready for a while now. He just lacks the confidence. But he’ll get there.” Kaepli glanced at Delia. “And your study? How long can you hold the changed aura?”
“Not long, which is frustrating. I have to focus so hard, it’s exhausting.”
“Interesting, then, that Nethene can hold it for so long. I do wonder why you see through it and no one else can?”
“I’ve wondered that as well. The prophesy says I’m the most powerful, so that might explain it. It doesn’t explain why I can’t hold the false aura.”
“Practice.” The old elf opened the door to the hall for her. “Power is one thing, skill something else. You’ll get it.”
She nodded. Once in the king’s office, the mage told him everything he’d told her and his apprentice. King Ucheni sighed and leaned back in his chair. “We’ll have to send scouts. You have no idea where the woods or the lake are?”
“No sire. I think the council should be involved. Especially Chief of Scouts, Mysteso and Captain Neoi.”
Ucheni’s eyebrow raised. “Not Nethene?”
“I’d advise not, Sire.”
“And you, Daughter?”
Delia shook her head. “He makes the hairs on my arms rise straight up. No, Father. Lord Enaur would be a welcome addition, though.”
Ucheni rang a small bell at the edge of his desk. A young page entered the room. “Get Lord Enaur, Captain Neoi, and Chief Scout Mysteso assembled for a meeting in the meeting room in an hour.”
The boy nodded and sprinted off. “Thank you Master Kaepli. I’ll see you in an hour.”
The elf bowed and took his leave. Delia turned to follow when her father stopped her. “And what have you been doing today, Delia?”
I’ve been with the mages, learning how to change my aura.”
He leaned forward, elbows on the desk. “Show me.”
Delia cleared her mind and began drawing power from her core. She struggled to get to her soul. It was difficult, almost painful to confront her raw being but she tapped into that and thought black. Her father’s gasp felt like a reward. She held the false aura for two minutes, the longest all day, before it slipped from her mind. Delia swayed with the effort and sank into the chair in front of his desk.
“That is incredible,” he said. He poured water into a goblet and brought it around the desk to her. She drank it all and handed it back.
“Thank you. That’s the longest I’ve held it.”
He went back to his chair and dropped into it. “I wasn’t really convinced. I apologize. No one else can see Nethene’s real aura, obviously, except you. How can that be?”
“He’s a powerful elf, Father, and has years of practice. Perhaps the aura everyone sees is the one he was born with and he just projects it while his real aura has changed to black. I have no idea.”
Ucheni’s fingers drummed on the arm of his chair. “Fair enough. Will you attend the council meeting?”
“If you need me to, Father.”
“I do. You will be my left hand. Your mother,” he said with a fond smile, “is already my right.”
Delia smiled. “I accept, Father.”
His face dropped the smile. A look of sorrow took its place. “I am so sorry for sending you away. I shouldn’t have done it.”
She rose and went around the desk to him and kissed his cheek. Delia was still upset about it but it was obvious both of her parents loved and missed her. “You made a terribly hard choice that you thought would protect me.” She held out her arms and made a twirl. “Look. It worked. Think no more about it. I’m here now.”
He rose and gave her a hug. “Thank you, Daughter.” He held her by the shoulders and stood back, studying her. “Have you eaten?”
“Hours ago, it seems.”
He rang his desk bell. Another page popped in the door. “Bring some small sandwiches, water, and wine. Soon, I have a council meeting in an hour.”
The boy ran off and the king and his daughter sat in the armchairs in front of the fireplace. “Let’s talk until the food comes.”
“That will be nice, Father.” She sat in one chair as he sat in the other.
“Tell me about the caravan,” he asked.
Flashes of the bad things ran through her mind. She pushed them away. There were bright spots. She told him about those.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 18.
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